Broken Engagements: Who Gets the Ring in PA?

Click below to share this on social media:

Our Pittsburgh family lawyers know that broken engagements can lead to extensive heartbreak and sadness deriving from the broken vows. Sometimes the jilted party will throw the engagement ring into the Ocean and watch it float away as a symbol of the break up of the relationship. The question is, is that legal?

In Pennsylvania, similar to our preference for no-fault divorce, we have no-fault engagement ring return. In 1999, the PA Supreme Court determined that an engagement ring is considered to be a conditional gift, the receipt of which is conditioned upon the marriage occurring. Therefore, if the marriage does not occur, then the donor (or the person who gave the engagement ring) has the right to reclaim the engagement ring. This will occur regardless of who broke up the engagement. The rationale behind this is to prevent the court from having to involve itself in the minute details of the engagement for the purpose of assigning fault.

You might think that this is not fair. In fact, a Pennsylvania opinion from the 1950’s argues the same thing: if one party is clearly at fault for calling off the wedding, then it would make sense for them to not be able to keep the ring. In that case, Pavlicic v. Vogtsberger, it was the recipient of the engagement ring who broke off the marriage and had to return it. Conversely, it also would apply to the proposition that if the giver of the ring breaks off the marriage, then they should not be able to keep it. Many other states, in fact, apply this fault-principle, saying that if the one who gives the engagement ring breaks off the marriage, then they do not have the right to reclaim it.

Ultimately, fault was removed from the equation in Pennsylvania, and the ring has to be returned regardless of fault if the marriage does not occur. Contact our experienced family lawyers today to discuss your family law matter!